Pirates Push Past Southern Miss, 44-43

UABSPORTS.COM Senior Giavanni Ruffin scored his first rushing touchdown for the Pirates in the fourth quarter. (Photo by Bobby McDuffie)
Senior Giavanni Ruffin scored his first rushing touchdown for the Pirates in the fourth quarter. (Photo by Bobby McDuffie)

Oct. 9, 2010

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HATTIESBURG, Miss. - After staking Southern Miss to a 20-0 lead in the opening quarter, the Pirates roared back to take a 44-43 victory when quarterback Dominique Davis hit inside wide receiver Michael Bowman for the game-winning 32-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-7 play.

The victory Saturday night in USM's homecoming game at M.M. Roberts Stadium was the Pirates' (3-2 overall, 3-0 in Conference USA) eighth straight against C-USA East Division opponents, and it snapped the Golden Eagles' (4-2 overall, 1-1 C-USA) 11-game home winning streak.

It also came on the day first-year ECU Coach Ruffin McNeill celebrated his 52nd birthday.

The Pirates struggled at the start, managing just nine total yards on their first four possessions in the opening quarter while falling behind 20-0. It was the first time this season the Pirates had not been ahead or tied after the first quarter. It was also ECU's first scoreless opening quarter this season.

The Pirates were unable to move the ball past midfield until Bowman's 56-yard kickoff return with 4:41 left in the quarter gave the Pirates the ball on the Golden Eagles' 40. Bowman's return was the longest by a Pirate this season and just short of his career-best 61-yard runback against UTEP Nov. 28, 2008. The possession ended quickly, though, as USM's Chico Hunter picked off a Dominique Davis pass on ECU's second play from scrimmage.

The Golden Eagles, meanwhile, scored on all four of their possessions in the quarter: a three-yard run by V.J. Floyd, a five-yard pass from Austin Davis to Johdrick Morris and a pair of Danny Hrapmann field goals.

The Pirates got on the scoreboard 1:35 into the second quarter when Dominique Davis hit Lance Lewis with the first of two 46-yard touchdown passes, capping a seven-play, 80-yard drive. The TD plays were the longest career touchdown receptions for Lewis and the longest career touchdown passes for Davis. The pair connected on a 43-yard TD pass play earlier this season.

Then, after forcing a USM three-and-out, the Pirates engineered a six-play, 51-yard drive ending in a 30-yard Mike Barbour field goal to slice the deficit to 20-10.

ECU crept closer with 30 seconds left in the half when Dominique Davis connected on a slant pass to inside wide receiver Dwayne Harris for a seven-yard touchdown and Barbour added the point-after to make the score 20-17. For Harris, the TD reception extended his streak to nine-straight games accounting for a touchdown. He has a TD catch in six of the last seven games.

The second half was a back-and-forth shoot-out, as both teams generally abandoned their running games.

On the opening drive of the third quarter, Southern Miss took advantage of a fourth-down conversion to stretch its lead to 27-17. On fourth and one from the Pirates' 46, Austin Davis hit Morris for a 34-yard gain. Two plays later, Davis ran eight yards for the touchdown.

The Pirates had an immediate answer, though, as Dominique Davis and Lewis connected on their second 46-yard TD pass-and-catch of the game, capping a three-play, 59-yard drive to pull to 27-24.

Hrapmann pushed USM's lead to 30-24 with a 49-yard field goal with 7:55 left in the third quarter.

On the ensuing kickoff, Harris took the kick and handed on a reverse to Jonathan Williams, who found a seam and took advantage of some key blocks to zoom 89 yards to the end zone, tying the game. Barbour tacked on the extra point to give the Pirates their first lead, 31-30 with 7:35 in the quarter.

Giavanni Ruffin scored his first rushing TD of the season, a 13-yard run, and Barbour added the point-after to put ECU up 38-30.

Hrapmann cut the Pirates' lead to 38-33 with a 39-yard field goal with 2:00 to go in the quarter. ECU's Emanuel Davis forced the field goal attempt when he broke up Austin Davis' pass attempt for Kelvin Bolden.

Justin Wilson got the ball back for USM when he intercepted a Dominique Davis pass, and the Golden Eagles climbed to within 38-36 when Hrapmann converted a 28-yard field goal with 9:13 remaining.

And moments later, the Golden Eagles reclaimed the lead when linebacker Jamie Collins intercepted a shovel pass by Dominique Davis and ran 32 yards for the touchdown with 7:43 left. Hrapmann added the point-after, giving USM a 43-38 lead.

The Pirates weren't finished, though, as Bowman caught the game-winning pass from Dominique Davis on a fourth-and-seven play from the USM 32 and ran in for the touchdown, staking ECU to a 44-43 lead with 4:36 left. The two-point conversion failed when Bowman couldn't hold onto a pass from Davis.

With 1:55 remaining, the Pirates withstood USM's last-ditch comeback attempt when ECU's Matt Milner sacked Austin Davis for a 13-yard loss on a fourth-and-10 play from the Golden Eagles' 49.

For the game, Dominique Davis completed 18 of 36 for 305 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions. Among receivers, Harris caught nine passes for 99 yards and a touchdown, Lewis had two catches for 92 yards and two touchdowns and Bowman caught two passes for 52 yards and a touchdown. Williams led the Pirates' ground game with 13 carries and 25 yards.

For USM, Austin Davis was 20 of 39 for 237 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. Morris was the leading receiver with five catches for 81 yards and a touchdown. Tracy Lampley was the leading rusher with 13 carries for 49 yards.

The Pirates resume action Saturday, Oct. 16, with a noon game at sold-out Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium against in-state rival N.C. State (5-1).